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Lifting the burden
I don’t think I can do this any longer.
A group of classmates and I were on a canoeing trip in the Boundary Waters of Minnesota. Whenever we approached a section of water that wasn’t safe for us to canoe, we had to stop, get out, and then portage our canoes—meaning we each had to carry a 75-pound canoe upside down on our shoulders for distances of up to 2,500 feet.
This wasn’t easy, and I quickly discovered that it was painful to walk on a narrow, muddy, rocky path with a canoe balanced above my head. I was afraid that if I took a wrong step, I would fall and be crushed by the canoe.
The first day, I let fear get the best of me. I cried while portaging and quickly gave up. After that, I tried a few more times, but it didn’t seem to be getting any easier. With every step I took, all I could think was, I don’t think I can do this any longer.
On the second day of our canoe trip, I had the opportunity to give portaging another shot. While I was still scared and uncomfortable, I pushed myself to carry the canoe farther down the path because my canoeing partner had already done her fair share of the work. That’s when I asked for help from a few friends, because I was still struggling.
I also realized I could lean on another kind of help. Even though the portaging was physically demanding, I realized that what I needed was actually a mental change—a change in perspective about the task—because being scared and grumpy wasn’t helping. I knew this change of thought would come as I stopped dwelling on my discomfort and started turning my attention to God, who is Love.
Everyone on the trip was a Christian Scientist, so at my request we started singing Hymn 139 from the Christian Science Hymnal as I continued to portage. We sang:
I walk with Love along the way,
And O, it is a holy day;
No more I suffer cruel fear,
I feel God’s presence with me here;
The joy that none can take away
Is mine; I walk with Love today.
(Minny M. H. Ayers, adapt. © CSBD)
As we sang, we replaced the word walk with portage. It was amazing. As I thought about portaging with Love, with God right there, I actually felt the power of divine Love lifting the burden off of me. I no longer felt alone or afraid of this challenging task or like I had to just struggle through it. Instead, in praising and thanking God, I really did feel “God’s presence with me here.” Although the physical circumstances hadn’t changed, the strain, stress, and struggle had vanished, and the portaging didn’t feel as hard anymore.
While portaging often gets more tiring and painful the longer you do it, in this case, it actually got easier once I turned my thoughts toward God. I happily carried my canoe whenever necessary for the rest of the way. And the remainder of the trip was amazing; I felt God’s care and love with every step.
One of the best parts of this experience was learning that I can feel God’s love in any situation—no matter what the situation is or how far away from home I am. We do have a divine Father-Mother who is with us wherever we go, and I’m grateful for the way this trip helped me see that a little more clearly.
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